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thedrifter
01-14-09, 07:42 AM
Hunter: No Gitmo Detainees to Pendleton
Last Update: 1/13 7:14 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Members of Congress from the San Diego area are telling the Pentagon they don't want detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison moved to Camp Pendleton.

Congressmen Duncan D. Hunter, Darrell Issa and Brian Bilbray took the position in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday -- a day after news emerged that President-elect Barack Obama plans to close Guantanamo by executive order soon after taking office.

A Pentagon official has said the Southern California Marine base is one possible destination for the detainees.

The lawmakers say sending terror suspects to Pendleton could distract Marines and raise safety concerns.

Ellie

thedrifter
01-14-09, 07:59 AM
Last modified Tuesday, January 13, 2009 10:10 PM PST




MILITARY: Lawmakers say Camp Pendleton no place for detainees

By MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

OCEANSIDE ---- North County's congressional delegation Tuesday slammed a proposal to relocate Guantanamo Bay prison detainees to military facilities such as Camp Pendleton, the sprawling 125,000-acre Marine Corps base just north of Oceanside.

President-elect Barack Obama's administration officials have said one of his first acts after next week's inauguration will be an executive order shutting down the controversial Cuban facility that has housed terror suspects from around the world since the attacks of 9/11.

U.S. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon, said Tuesday that moving any detainees to Camp Pendleton or Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in northeastern San Diego would be a mistake.

"Camp Pendleton is a place where we train our Marines and sailors for combat," Hunter said. "It is not a detention facility, nor should it be transformed into one.� Any attempt to accommodate detainees at Camp Pendleton would create an unnecessary distraction for the Marine Corps and interfere with its primary mission, which is to combat terrorism."

Hunter said unnamed Obama officials have said bases such as Pendleton could be tapped to house detainees moved out of a shuttered Guantanamo.

Camp Pendleton officials referred questions about the proposal to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whose spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said that if Obama does order Guantanamo closed, military bases are not ruled out as possible relocation sites.

"Although I don't speak for President-elect Obama, he has been unambiguous about his position," Irwin said. "There are any number of options that have been examined and will undoubtedly be examined in the future."

Obama has said it would be "a challenge" to close Guantanamo any time soon.

A closure directive would require deciding how to handle an estimated 250 al-Qaida and Taliban suspects and potential witnesses held at the prison.

Unnamed Obama advisers have been quoted in published reports as saying the new administration would look at each detainee to see whether they can be released or if they should still be held. The inmates include at least 15 "high value detainees."

In an interview broadcast on ABC Sunday, Obama was clear about his intentions.

"We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our constitution," he said.

Guantanamo has generated controversy since the Bush administration began housing terror suspects there. Critics contend inmates have been mistreated and denied legal rights. The administration has refused to apply many of the tenets of the Geneva Convention to the terror suspects.

At the Pentagon on Tuesday, spokesman Geoff Morrell said closing Guantanamo presents a huge logistical challenge and that it holds people "still bent on doing harm to America."

"So there will have to be some solution for the likes of them, and those are among ... the thorny issues that the president-elect and his new team are carefully considering," Morrell said.

Many terror suspects who have been held but released are increasingly returning to the fight against the United States and its allies with at least 61 freed from the U.S. Navy base prison believed to be fighting again, Morrell said.

More than 520 detainees have been released from custody or transferred to prisons elsewhere in the world.

In a letter from the North County congressmen addressed to Gates, Hunter and U.S. Reps. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, and Darrell Issa, R-Vista, wrote that as the nation fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, having to watch over terror detainees in base jails is too onerous. As the premier West Coast training base for the Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton is not well-suited to become a terror suspect prison, they said.

"The Marines must not be distracted from their wartime mission," they wrote.

Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood said he wanted to hear more details about any proposed transfer to Camp Pendleton.

"If they had them out there, we might not even know about it," Wood said. "It is a government base and they can use if for whatever purpose they believe is best."

Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or mlwalker@nctimes.com.

Ellie